Monday, November 29, 2010

Holiday Balance

How did you do this Thanksgiving holiday - Did you survive Turkey Day?  Did you stay true to your normal clean eating habits or did you "go off the rails" on a grain and sugar binge?  This holiday was the first holiday where I really felt comfortable maintaining my eating habits - I decided that I wanted to stay as close to my normal eating routine as possible and made the exception of having more "sugar" than I normally would by having some Paleo friendly desserts.  Both sides of my family humored me and made sure that there were things that I could eat - even altering traditional recipes so that I would also be able to eat it - which was very much appreciated by me!

One important thing about maintaining a Paleo lifestyle over the holidays is to stay true to your normal routine - eating clean and continuing to work out - but also finding balance.  Keep your normal routine, do a workout and eat clean for the holiday weekend and then make a cognizant decision to have one dessert or eat your mom's candied yams.  Just make sure you don't use the beginning of the holiday season as an excuse for why you are abandoning what you've been doing before the holidays started.  In addition to navigating the holiday meals, anyone that works in an office also has to face the piles of desserts, cookies, candies, popcorn, etc that begin to show up in office kitchens everywhere between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Remember to find balance, but also decide is eating that cookie really worth it?  Tasting some of my co-worker's famous home-made biscotti last year was worth it for me - plan what you're going to try and don't beat yourself up if you do have somethings that you wouldn't normally eat or drink over the holiday.  What is most important is that you CHOOSE to eat it or not, and that you don't use a small indulgence or exception to your normal eating and fitness habits as the catalyst to abandon all of the healthy lifestyle changes you've made.  Keep on track and know that you are in control of your food choices and maintaining your workout schedule - whatever those choices are they are yours.

So remember this holiday season is yours to enjoy and the choices you make are exactly that - choices that you can make.  Just like vacation (but the holiday season is a little bit longer) remember to live a little but do what you want to do!  There are many great Paleo or Primal alternatives out there that you can share with others as well.

Here are some great resources that I've found to help you stay on track over the holidays, and also to give you a little guidance when you slip up.  Are there any other resources you use, recipes you tried over Thanksgiving that were a big hit?  Please share what you tried.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Seasons and Periodization

As a Triathlete in mid-September I wrapped up my swim, bike, and run season.  As a Runner the end of November will mark the end of my outside running season - I don't train indoors on a treadmill anymore.  As a Crossfitter the colder months indicate my shift to indoor training and since I take a break with my other sports, its a great time to increase my Crossfit training.  I pick the winter months to ramp up strength training and really focus on Crossfit; however, Crossfit doesn't really have "seasons" since the majority of Crossfitters aren't training for sectionals, regionals, and the Games.  Crossfitters love their sport and with the lack of seasons and eagerness to get better tend to over-train.  Outside sports have weather and seasons to help athletes know when to ramp up and slow down their training, but Crossfit is constantly varied and is done all year round indoors and out, in the hot and in the cold.  One common criticism of Crossfitting is that there is no programmed rest and the concept of periodization doesn't really exist since most Crossfitters aren't training to peak at the Crossfit Games.

So what are you supposed to do as a Crossfitter?  When you are training for a run, like a Marathon, you follow a training plan that has built in taper weeks and increases your volume of training to help you peak on race day.  Crossfit doesn't have a 16, 12, or 8 week training plan to help you string together a combination of strength training and met-cons to help you peak for a certain event or around a certain time of the year.  You have to take responsibility for your training as a Crossfitter, and build in some downtime as well as review the mix of strength verse met-con that you do in order to reach your personal goals or training schedule.  Its important to not go 100% all year round, you need to give your body time to recover, you can't go 3 days on 1 day off 12 months in a row and every time you do strength go for a new 1, 3, 5 rep max.  It's important to remember that more (weight, reps,training sessions) isn't always better, and there is a lot of value in giving your body time to repair itself.  Over-training leads to injury and adrenal burnout, the best way to avoid this is to add periodization (e.g., training to reach peak performance and including some downtime) to your training.

In order to apply the concept of periodization, you need to define your personal goals and 'seasons' to help determine when you're going hard, when you're working to build strength, and when you're taking it easy.  I use my other sports as a guide to help me increase training in one area, decrease training in another, and make sure that I take some time off in between.  This year, I was training for Regionals and then the Games, and found that my Crossfit training and my running/triathlon training were conflicting with each other.  I was doing too many training sessions a week and trying to cram in runs, bikes, and swims as well.  It left me a little burned out, and a few weeks prior to the games I took a break because my training had stagnated and I was on my way to getting burned out - before my big event!  To help you plan your training, create a list of personal goals and work with a trainer to put a plan in place to realistically achieve them.  Track your workouts in a log book - I like to track mine on a monthly calendar so I can see what my training looks across a week, 2 weeks, and even the whole month.  I plan my workouts weekly, sometimes using a running or triathlon training plan and supplementing with Crossfit on the Interval or Open days.  One of the most important lessons I've learned through training for multiple sports and adding Crossfit in is the value of rest days.  Make sure they are included in your training plan as well - depending on your level and your goals the amount of rest days will vary.  But remember, rest days are not days that you don't do anything, they are days that you are letting your body repair and get stronger.

Now with some more information on periodization and its importance how will you apply periodization to your training?  Have you reached the point of burn out where you feel stagnated?  How are you going to change the way you plan your training going forward?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

To Grill or Not To Grill?

One of our favorite ways to cook is on the grill, so when I read Lights Out: Sleep, Sugar, and Survival by T.S.Wiley and Bent Formby found a statement about carcinogens in barbecued meats I was pretty sad.  I gather a lot of my Paleo nutrition information from a combination of Internet and printed sources, and decided to try my luck at submitting a question to Robb Wolf's weekly podcast.  This podcast is a little geeky, but I find it fascinating (which probably makes me a little geeky too) and it has really helped increase my knowledge quickly since the podcast covers such a wide variety of questions.  If you're looking for an easy way to learn more about the pseudo-nutrition science of Paleo foods download some of Robb Wolf's podcasts and start listening to them when you're commuting, doing something mundane like checking all of your friends facebook statuses, or running 12 miles - whatever fits best into your schedule.

Here was my question to Robb and Andy, it was asked as #9 Grilling Meats in Episode 51:
I just finished reading Lights Out: Sleep, Sugar, and Survival by T.S.Wiley and Bent Formby and have a question about a statement they made related to barbecued meats:

On Page 176 it says "The average serving of barbecued or burned meat imparts to you an amount of cancer causing particles equivalent to what you would get from smoking 250 cigarettes"

I understand the burned meat part, but what do they mean by barbecued?  I'm asking because I grill most of my meats/seafood for dinner - fish, steak, chicken, pork, turkey - it all tastes better on the grill.  Does grilling your meats- as long as you don't burn them or cook them to death - create the same carcinogenic compounds that they state in the book?  Since reading this I've been more cognizant of not eating any part that's burned but do I need to stop grilling too?

To hear Robb's response to my question, click here and fast forward to about 34:30.  I'm pretty proud that I asked a question that Robb has been dreading for years, the guy is a smart guy and gets TONS of questions! 

And the million dollar question, after hearing Robb break down the science of carcinogens and grilling meats what will I do, will I stop grilling?  In short no, I will make sure that I don't eat burned meat or burned anything for that matter and am going to grill less often - instead of grilling everything I'll mix in baking things in the oven and I'm even thinking about getting a pressure cooker and maybe a bamboo steaming basket for meats.  This is an instance where you can drive yourself crazy, but like Robb said, eating grilled burned meats even if they have some carcinogenic properties is still better than eating a bagel!